Artec Duo Drive, Twin Head, and Cool Drive
While the brand Artec isn’t exactly a household name with most guitarists, they are a fairly well known brand in Asia and parts of Europe, In fact, you might actually be using one of their products already as Artec is a OEM supplier of pickups which come pre installed in many affordable guitars and are also rebanded and sold as aftermarket upgrades by a handful of companies. Artec offers a full line of stomp boxs covering pretty much every niche of effects, today we’ll take a look at their Duo Drive, Cool Drive, and Twin Head pedals.
SE-DDB Duo Drive Blender
I must say, I was extremely intrigued with the concept of the Duo Drive’s inclusion of 2 different types of drive built into a single pedal. Unlike most pedals which include dual overdrive/distortion, the Duo Drive doesn’t stack the dirt one into another, but rather runs them in parallel mixing the output. Very cool concept, but will it deliver?
The Duo Drive packs its dual personality into a very compact pedal board friendly enclosure with side mounded input/output and 9V DC power jacks. This pedal, like the majority of Artec effects is true bypass. The controls of the unit are intuitive, but laid out creatively to accommodate the pedal’s small size. standard sizer knobs control the level and tone while mini knobs are used to control the independent crunch and heavy gain controls.
I auditioned the Artec Duo Drive using a PRS SE Singlecut and clean channel of a Tech 21 Trademark 60. I immediately began concocting different combinations of the drives and it was easy to find some very cool combinations which benefited from the cleaner attack of the crunch side and the sustain and low end wallop of the heavy side. Unfortunately, to get the pedal to output a unity gain signal the gain had to be cranked up pretty high and the level dimed which pretty much nixed many of the lower gain combinations. Bummer. That being said, the higher gain tones do deliver in a late 80’s on steroids type of way with gobs of sustain but lacked the thunderous low end of more modern styles.
The SE-DDB Duo Drive Blender is a fantastic concept which I’d love to see further refined and expanded. I imagine an enterprising modder could turn this into their go to overdrive. In fact, if I had my wishes, I’d put it into a larger enclosure offering dual footswitches to be able to toggle between the drives or use them in parallel.
Price: ~$55 USD
Pros: Parallel dirt tones in a compact package
Cons: Unit struggles to hit unity gain
The Artec TWH-1 Twin Head is a dual amp simulator in a pedal board friendly package. Across the top of the nicely powder coated box are controls for Level, Amp/Gain, Bass, and Treble. Input/output and a 9 volt power jack are mounted along the top of the unit. A clip style battery compartment is located on the back of the unit, and a quick note on detail: the unit ships with 4 adhesive plastic feet in a little bag allowing the user the choice of affixing them for standalone usage or ignoring them allowing a flatter surface for velcro based pedal board usage. Kudos! the final feature is a footswitch labeled direct (true) bypass.
In standard fashion, I plugged my Luna Athena into the pedal then into my VHT Special 6 to see what she was capable of. The controls all seemed pretty intuitive, or so I thought. As I looked at the pedal I wondered exactly how to switch between the different amp emulations. A bit of fiddling and it became quickly apparent. The Amp/Gain knob functions a bit differently than one might expect. At noon, the pedal functions as a low gain drive (as indicated via a center detente conveniently labeled “Low”) but dialing the knob clockwise engages the Classic overdrive while counterclockwise the Crunch. Genius, at least on paper...while I applaud the design efficiency in application things get too hot too quick and seem to function almost like a glorified toggle than a smooth tapered pot. However, tonally I realized pretty quickly that this pedal is really intended to be a direct device rather than feeding a guitar amp. So I unplugged from my amp and plugged directly into my computer interface and monitored using a pair of M-Audio AV40s. Run direct, both voices of the pedal sound convincing. The Classic side delivers Marshall JCM flavored dirt in spades really capturing the signature sizzling krang and a palm mute friendly low end. Both the high and low controls were well voiced allowing me to dial in the brighter and tighter tone of the 80’s to the the fuller and darker tones of the 90’s with a couple twists. I found the Crunch side similarly nice with a sweet bite, rich midrange, and slightly tubby lowend kind of like a hybridized Tweed Bassman and JTM-45. Again, the tone controls were very effective, perhaps even more so than with the Classic side, with different combinations of treble and bass almost altering the core character of the drive in very cool ways. I threw a bunch of different guitars at the Twin Head including an SX SST57, PRS SE Singlecut, and Highland Royal and all sounded great.
The Artec TWH-1 TWINHEAD is a nice direct amp modeler disguised as a stomp box with a wide range of great sounding dirt. While Artec pedals are a bit hard to find stateside, I imagine once players start getting there hands on this one they’re bound to develop a bit of a reputation among bargain hunting tone junkies.
Price: ~$65 USD
Pros: Great sounding and versatile amp in a box
Cons: Gain control quite touchy.
CDV-1 Cool Drive
Read up a bit on overdrive and distortion design and you will certainly stumble upon the concept the pre and post tone shaping are keys to a good dirt box. Tricks like cutting the low end before clipping to keep things tight or boosting the mids have been employed by pedal builders for years to try and emulate the smoother tones of tube amps. Many modders have made names for themselves by carefully manipulating the pre and post eq of otherwise pedestrian pedals. What if a pedal allowed you to control the pre and post clipping EQ? Well, frankly I’m a bit surprised I haven’t seen a pedal like this on the market previously but this is exactly what the Artec Cool Drive offers.
The Cool Drive features top mounted input/output and 9V DC jacks with four controls across its face: level, gain, and dual controls for shape (pre/post EQ). Like the TWINHEAD, the unit features a nice powder coated exterior and true bypass.
To audition the Cool Drive, I fed it into a Peavey Bandit and VHT Special 6 using a variety of guitars. As one might expect from a conceptual pedal such as this, there are a wide variety of tones on tap...and not all of them are good. Let me clarify, since Artec has provided the user with so much control, they’ve allowed you to dial in some potentially bad and down right odd tones as well as good. As you might expect from that statement, a fair amount fo experimentation is required to find the magic combinations. However, once dialed in the Cool Drive covers a pretty wide range of stomp box flavors from Tubescreamer-esque mid hump maxing out at darn close to scooped buzz of the Rat. In fact, I was rather surprised at how different the pedal was able to sound at different settings. Despite being given such power over the signal’s shape, I found myself occasionally yearning for a traditional tone control.
The Artec CDV-1 Cool Drive is a very cool concept. However, I imagine more conservative players might get frustrated trying to dial in the box and the more adventurous wishing for more knobs and switches. Aretec has the right idea, but I’d love to see them go for broke with a pedal such as this combined with the Artec Duo Drive Blender in a large box with a bunch of switches and buttons ala the ZVex Inventobox. If they could hit an affordable price point, I imagine they would sell to the aural mad scientists like crazy.
Price: ~$55 USD
Pros: Wide range of overdrive colors
Cons: Dual shape concept requires a fair bit of experimentation.